What should the Phillies do with Michael Bourn?

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With the latest round of cuts yesterday, it appears Michael Bourn is closer to making the big league team out of camp. Bourn has generated a bit of buzz this spring, I wrote a profile on him a while back, and in my prospect grades, I gave him a B-, noting his great speed, but his fringy offensive skill set. I’m going to attempt to turn this into a poll and see if we can get some idea of what people are thinking. I’ll give my thoughts and rationale under the poll, so you can vote before reading my take on it.

Go here to vote, then come back and keep reading.

To me, Bourn is a really risky guy going forward. As I have highlighted in the past, he’s going to realistically need a .400+ OB% to be an offensive asset in the majors, which will allow him to utilize his speed. Defensively, he seems fine, but he has very little power, and the small dimensions of Citizens Bank Park will likely rob him of a few doubles and triples because of the narrow power alleys. The Phillies can’t really be sure what they have in him, so it seems unlikely they’d just turn over an everyday job to him. At the same time, there is an argument that says he should be getting regular AB’s in Ottawa, but to me, I don’t know what benefit that will be. If they view his offense as fringy, is it really going to improve batting against a lot of minor league mercenaries in AAA? He hasn’t shown any power since his days in Low A, and that probably won’t change. As it is, he’s probably a valuable 5th OF now, able to play defensively at any of the 3 OF positions as well as pinch run in later innings. You also have the notion that other teams may value him because of his speed and defense, and a team like Florida has been mentioned as a possible suitor, mainly because they have no good in house options.

Anyway, I’m curious as to what people think, so please vote, and if you’d like, leave feedback in the comments section.

15 thoughts on “What should the Phillies do with Michael Bourn?

  1. This is a letter I wrote to sportswriter Todd Zolecki in response to where Rollins should bat, but it was greatly influenced by the possibility of Bourn as our centerfielder.

    Dear Todd,

    Your article on where Rollins should bat was interesting but missed
    one very important point. Rollins is a much better hitter with men
    in scoring position than he is with no one on. I don’t have the
    exact numbers in front of me, but i know that he hits in the 300’s
    with men in scoring position compared with the 270’s otherwise. Are
    you telling me you don’t believe that a man who can hit 25 homers and
    bat over 300 with men in scoring position would not be the ideal
    hitter to bat behind Howard?

    Rollins Is one of those rare guys (think Pete Rose) that apparently
    concentrates more intensely and becomes a better hitter when the
    pressure is on. He doesn’t want to walk; he wants to hit. Right now
    I don’t know who else can bat leadoff for the Phillies but when
    Bourn makes the team, he is the guy. Check his OBP when he played
    at Lakeland. Last year he wasn’t ready for AAA and his numbers
    suffered a little but he is the prototype leadoff man.

    What do you think?

  2. Well, it’s Lakewood, not Lakeland 😉 But you have a point. Bourn’s only real spot to hit seems to be leadoff, but that’s only if his OB% jumps back into the .380-.400 range, which isn’t easy for anyone to do, let alone a rookie.

    If his ceiling is defensive replacement/pinch runner, then I think you either trade him for a player like Tankersley or you keep him and just use him in the majors. I don’t see what good it will do to send him to AAA.

  3. I’m not so down on Bourn as you seem to be, Phuture. He did
    whack a couple of dingers in Cuba, you will remember, and maybe
    the small confines of the Bank would give him a few more. But,
    clearly, his virtues do not include power. They DO include
    dangerous speed–a real threat on the bases–and excellent
    defense (including arm). I think that, unlike guys like JRoll
    and Vic, he has a better idea of how to use his speed too. In
    any case, that’s basically why I voted to keep him–at least for
    the time being–on the ML roster as a spare part. I think he be
    could be quite useful in that role.

  4. I don’t think Bourn has to have an OBP of .400 to be valuable. A 360-380 OBP is pretty good for a leadoff guy and woiuld suffice. That’s still a tall order though. I’m not sure he’s going to draw a Dykstra load of walks so he’ll have to hit close to or over .300 to get there and I’m not sure he’s able to do that.

    He’s a nice prospect I think. Still young enough and he’s shown some hitting prowess in both AAA and this spring. But facing all big league pitcher might make the difference between him having the OBP to be valuable or not quite getting there.

    I’d like to see him start the year playing every day in AAA. Then make a decision based on how well he handles that.

  5. ogd, it’s not that I’m really “down” on him, it’s that I just don’t think he can realistically reach the ceiling he’ll need to in order to be a positive value player. In 1,000+ AB at AA or higher, he’s managed a grand total of 60 extra base hits….that’s really worrisome to me. Also, his OB% has been in the .350-.360 range, which translates probably into the .330-.340 range at the big league level, if not a bit lower. If he puts up those numbers, he’s a negative value player, namely because he can’t utilize his speed while in the dugout. As a 5th OF, I think he’d be fine, but if someone wants to offer us a player of higher value than a 5th OF, I think we should listen. Again, I’m not advocating giving him away, but he isn’t an impact player, in my opinion, and those are the types of guys you should be looking to get max value for before they fall flat at the big league level and lose their value.

  6. I would merely add that, when I mentioned his using his speed more effectively than even
    Rollins and Victorino, I meant that he will get on base with his speed by bunting and beating out IF rollers (whether outs or not). He could be a disruptive force like no one else on the
    team. In any case, I don’t see him as a starter at this point. As I said, I see him as a
    useful spare part at least until the team jells into its final form, whenever that may be.

    But we’ll see how it all plays out.

  7. I think he should go to AAA, He only has played in 38 Int Lg games and in combined AAA and AA games last year, batted in the .270s…hardly enough for the type of player he projects to be. He’s still young enough to improve before a call up.

  8. I understand that argument, but at the same time, the level of competition is probably much greater at AA than AAA. In the Eastern League (AA), he’d be facing a lot more actual prospects and highly rated players, as opposed to AAA, which functions as a “holding tank” for emergency callups and career minor leaguers. Bourn has over 1,000 minor league AB’s at the AA level and above, I’m not really sure what else he has to learn. His pitch recognition is the key to his on base %, and that will only improve by facing the best pitchers.

  9. He fills a limited role niche on the roster. Part of the FO thinking may be that he does more to enhance his value as trade bait by being on the roster rather than playing everyday at triple A.

    Don’t think the FO currently sees him as a future FT player.

  10. The question of trading Rowand involves timing and coverage. Branch Rickey said you should trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late. Last year was the optimim value for Rowand. This year it is less. At the end of the year he is a free agent, so we are stuck with offering an extended contract to someone we probably should have traded. I would trade him now and hand the job to Bourn, who, if he fails, is covered in center by Victorino with Werth sliding into right.
    But obviously we make projected trades in a world in which everything is possible, whereas the GM works in the real world. And we like to see movement because it excites us, and we don’t have to live with the real consequences.

  11. I may be in the minority, but I would send him to AAA. If a trade for a reliever has to be done, then I would prefer to trade Rowand. But for now I would rather have the extra power in the OF with Rowand, get at bats for Bourn in AAA, and let Burrell simply play. Dobbs and Coste will be fine off the bench. We still have a backup CF in Victorino. Werth can fill in defensively for Pat in late innings. Pinch running is not a big enough reason to keep Bourn on the team.

    If relief pitching turns out to be a problem, I would first see if guys like Segovia and Happ can solve it from within. Second option is trading Lieber if Garcia is healthy. Last option is Rowand, but I don’t want to have 2 non-power guys starting in the OF in Victorino and Bourn. The team has options. There is no need to rush into a panic trade.

  12. Bourn does not need a .400 OBP to be valuable. Juan Pierre, a major league who I’ve heard Bourn optimistically compared to, had OBPs of .326 and .330 his last 2 seasons playing 162 games in each for the Marlins and Cubs. That was enough for the Dodgers to pay him $44 million. That said, I want to see Bourn try to bring his average to .300 for at least a couple more months in AAA before taking ABs away from Werth, Coste, Dobbs, or Rowand. I expect that Rowand, in his second NL season and in his contract year, will hit .290 with 20 HR and 20 SB, and be an defensive and clubhouse asset. If the Phils trade him they need to get an excellent reliever who’s still in his prime, not another over-the-hill guy like Rhodes, Worrell, or Urbina.

  13. Well, that’s true about Pierre, but because another team paid him a lot of money doesn’t mean he’s a good ballplayer. His offensive value is tied solely to his ability to get on base, because he has no power. Bourn might be similar, but a .350 OB% isn’t great if you’re nothing more than a singles hitter.

  14. How about just having him start over Victorino and having Shane play 3 times a week spelling Burrell and Rowand?

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